The Goat Diaries – Joy

Finding Joy

I was away at the Clicker Expo last weekend.  What a fun event!  This is the fifteenth anniversary of the Expo so it was fun to look back even as we were all looking ahead.  What will we be talking about in another five, ten, fifteen years?  Whatever it is, I’m sure it will include Joy.  Since I spent the weekend in the company of Dr. Susan Friedman and Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz, I can hear them saying: so how would you operationalize Joy?  Perhaps this post will provide an answer.  It will certainly show us what Joy looks like in a goat.

July Goat Diaries: Day 10 – This is What Mounting Blocks Are For

What a fun morning!  Both goats were very much wanting out, so I took them straight into the arena.  They made a bee line to the mounting block.  Let the games begin!

I should describe my mounting block.  If you are picturing the plastic steps you can buy in your local tack store, you’ve got the wrong image.  My mounting block is a multistep, thirty foot long structure built into the short end of the arena.  During the barn construction, I indulged in my pack rat tendencies and collected all the discarded wood that would otherwise have been thrown out.  It didn’t matter the size or condition, I scavenged it all.

The mounting block is made from this wood.  I used left over tongue and groove to build a thirty foot series of steps along the short end of the arena.  The topmost step is a ten foot long platform that lets me easily slide my leg over the back of a tall horse, or sit at eye level visiting with him.  On the far side of this top step is step down to another ten foot long platform.  So we have the lower steps for the Iceys.  The topmost platform is for Robin, and we have storage underneath for clicker toys.

When I look at it, I see a mounting block.  When the goats saw it, it was the best kind of playground.

With E in the lead, they bounded up to the top platform and raced across and down to the far end.  I stayed with them walking along side the mounting block.  At the far end I backed away inviting them to me.   They jumped off and ran over to me.

The leaping off part was such fun!  P was like a teenage boy doing aerial tricks on a skateboard.  He didn’t just jump off.  He did full body twists in the air, landed somehow all four feet on the ground, sprang up and cavorted through another series of aerial tricks.  This is what Joy looks like!

Both goats leapt off the mounting block and came running to me.  Click and treat.  I walked back to the first step of the mounting block with the two goats following on either side of me.  Click and treat.  Then it was up onto the mounting block for another run across and another wild leap into the air.

At one point they started to race towards the mounting block just as I clicked.  They turned on a dime and came back to me for a treat.  It had been a meaningless noise at the start of their visit.  Clearly, they now understood what the click meant.

P’s aerials became ever more complex.  We were all having such fun.  If laughter is reinforcing, then their antics were getting lots of encouragement.  But all good things must come to an end.  It was time to stop.  I headed towards the arena door, only the goats weren’t done.

They peeled off away from me and raced together up the mounting block steps. They head butted their way across the top platform.  E jumped off and ran back to me.  P followed but just as he got to the door, E blocked him.  P turned back for one more run, a wild twist-leap-jump for joy across the mounting block, then he raced back to the doorway to join us.

They are so totally enchanting.  When they followed me back each time to the start of the mounting block, I really did feel as though I was out for a walk with two very charming, but very odd looking dogs.  And their wild leaps into the air made me laugh.  They offer so much fun behavior.  Training them is a joy and so is sharing them.  So here to brighten your day is my favorite video from their July visit.  Enjoy!


Coming Next: Day 10 continued: Training Happens Fast!

Please Note: if you are new to the Goat Diaries, these are a series of articles that are best read in order.  The first installment was posted on Oct. 2nd.  I suggest you begin there:   Two of the goats I write about originally came for a twelve day stay in July.  The July Goat Diaries track their training during this period.  In November these two goats, plus three others returned.  They will be with me through the winter.  The “Goat Palace” reports track their current training.  I wish to thank Sister Mary Elizabeth from the Community of St. Mary in upstate NY for the generous loan of her beautiful cashmere goats.